Brian Kidd has never stopped calling Sir Alex Ferguson "the Boss" and uses the term so liberally in the course of a discussion about tomorrow's Manchester derby that at times it is hard to be sure which of the two managers contesting the match he is actually alluding to.
A capacity to make tough decisions is the trait common to both Ferguson and Roberto Mancini, Kidd always says, though the brutal treatment of him in Ferguson's biography, 12 years ago, suggests that this point of comparison has its limits. Kidd was hurt and damaged by Ferguson's dissection of him, though his response has remained limited to his curt observation at the time that Walt Disney was "trying to buy the film rights to the book as a sequel to Fantasia". The timing of Ferguson's claim that Kidd would never manage could hardly have been worse: he was struggling badly at Blackburn Rovers at the time.
Time is evidently a healer, though, and it was as a member of the City camp preparing for Old Trafford that Kidd finally proved willing to venture back on to this old territory yesterday, insisting that he was "relaxed about it all" and that he was willing to give Ferguson "the benefit of the doubt". Kidd offered a homily – which went around the houses in the charming way that his so often do – on how comments can get exaggerated in the re-telling. "We could be having a drink and you say something and I say something and by the time it's repeated three or four times it's nothing like what's been said..." he said, though Ferguson's words were down there in black and white. The essential points were that Kidd was insecure; a moaner who had infuriated Ferguson by questioning United's pursuit of Dwight Yorke and proposing the West Ham United striker John Hartson instead.
There was a mild sense of indignation when Kidd insisted that going back to Ferguson's manor in no way made him uncomfortable. "No, not at all because my conscience is clear on that one. Not at all," he said. "I know myself. I know... I know." It's hardly a rapprochement, even though they'll share a drink after tomorrow's lunch-time game, which City need to win to maintain their challenge for the Premier League title. When Kidd was fighting prostate cancer in 2004, there was no phone call from Ferguson, who is usually assiduous on such occasions. But a love of Manchester football is too ingrained in Kidd – a 61-year-old who still talks of "the Reds" and "the Blues" – for him to be exiled from the club with whom he won a European Cup as a 19-year-old in 1968.
The world of football has turned so completely in the 43 years since then that those of the present generation seem to have forgotten that this modest and most humble man has lifted the trophy which City covet most of all. Perhaps the most extraordinary revelation in a captivating 40-minute glimpse into Kidd's life yesterday is that no City player has asked him about that famous night at Wembley. It's not in his nature to talk about it, though. "The worse thing in the world you do is self-promote, isn't it?" he says. "Listen, you just try to do your best and get on with it. You look outside and think football has been great for me. I just try to do my best and keep my nose clean. I don't start talking about my achievements."
Another Kidd homily, learned from Ferguson he says, goes along the lines of "if a manager wants to know, he'll ask you" and he certainly seems to be further from the seat of power than Mancini's assistant David Platt. But the knowledge inside Kidd's head is something money cannot buy in the last 24 hours before derby day kick-off. He was in the United set-up when they faced City at Old Trafford in March 1968, the last time the two sides were competing for the title. City won 3-1 and went on to take the championship. Those were days when the United academy players would have passes to watch City matches from the back of the stand at Maine Road, and to get from Old Trafford to training near the Manchester Ship Canal they would "run up the hill, across the railway line and then back again afterwards". The most special part of the working routine was cleaning the boots. "I would sit there dreaming. If I had the Lawman's [Denis Law] boots I would just think that one day I could do what he did and play in the derby."
Days long gone now – and Kidd wouldn't dream of expounding before Mancini his view that the old trainees' work might still serve a purpose. "It's all changed now," he says. "The scouting system has gone out of all proportion. Everything is being scouted in Asia, Africa and South America. For me, a lot of it is like panning for fool's gold. Everyone thinks they are going to unearth something."
Of course, Kidd knows from his work with Ferguson, who installed him at United in 1988 in a community role, that the gold can be right there in front of your eyes. He recalls, as if it were yesterday, clapping eyes on Paul Scholes in "a little tournament" at Middleton Sports Centre in north Manchester. "Scholesy came in with his little six-a-side team. I hadn't seen him play, but people had told me about him. Unbelievable."
Kidd emerges from this moment's reverie to conclude that "you can't buy those wonderful memories from the 1980s being involved with the local scene" and to say of Ferguson: "I will always appreciate what he's done for me." A hatchet buried, perhaps, but that won't stop Kidd turning the knowledge imbued in him against "the Boss". Kidd was in the United dugout when their 26-year wait for a title ended in 1993 and he can barely explain how it would feel to end City's 35-year wait for a trophy. "It goes without saying, being a local lad, and in some small way... you can't dream about it."
Kidd's Manchester Life
Born 29 May, 1949, Collyhurst Manchester
1967-74 Manchester United
1976-79 Manchester City
Brian Kidd made his United debut in 1967 and went on to make over 200 appearances, the tall striker scoring in the 1968 European Cup final. After two years away with Arsenal he was back in Manchester, joining City for a three-year spell.
1988-91 Manchester Utd (youth team)
1991-98 Manchester Utd (assistant)
2009 Manchester City (youth team)
2009- Manchester City (assistant)
Kidd became assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson in 1991, helping the club win four league titles. Spells with Blackburn, Leeds, England and Portsmouth preceded his return to City in 2009, as coach and then assistant to Roberto Mancini.
- More about:
- French Football
- Juande Ramos
- Manchester City
- Premier League
- Sir Alex Ferguson
- Walt Disney